I love my slow cooker, it barely uses any energy and can safely be left on all day, gently cooking away. As well as meaty casseroles I also cook beans and pulses in it. My slow cooker was one of the cheapest from Argos, bought about 10 years ago. Do check the wattage on the cheaper models – mine is 160 – 190W – and works well. Less powerful models can take forever to bring the contents to a simmer, and will not give as satisfactory results.
A successful slow cooked meal is all in the preparation, most of the time you do need to prepare the ingredients, and usually give ox cheeks and vegetables a quick fry before transferring to the slow cooker. About an hour before you want to eat check the meal – if needed you can thicken the sauce in two ways – either place a heaped teaspoon of corn flour into a small bowl, add a tablespoon of liquid from the slow cooker, mix well and return. Or, prop the lid open a crack, which will allow for some reduction. by evaporation.
One trick I have recently learnt is to wrap your vegetables into a grease proof paper parcel and pop into the slow cooker with the casserole for the last hour or so of cooking.
Ox cheeks are hard working muscles – all that grazing and chewing of the cud results in a dense, coarse meat. It’s a cut, therefore, that needs slow cooking, but with some time can deliver a meltingly soft and tasty result. You will achieve equal success with stewing steak or shin of beef. We used a slow cooker, but a casserole in a very low oven would do as well.
The addition of the pickled walnuts adds another layer of flavour, some sharpness and texture. It is well worth investing in a jar.
Slower cooking renders tougher cuts of meat meltingly delicious, the addition of pickled walnuts adds a twist to a this classic beef casserole.
- Beef dripping or goose fat
- 2 medium onions – roughly diced
- 1 clove garlic
- 800 g Ox cheeks – cut into 3 – 4 cm chunks or stewing steak
- 1 glass red wine
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 1 mug beef stock
- 8 pickled walnuts
- Salt & pepper
Slowly fry the onion and garlic in the dripping or goose fat ; when soft transfer to the slow cooker or crock pot.
Cube the ox cheeks into bite-sized pieces and sear a few at a time, transferring to the slow cooker when browned.
Whilst the last batch of beef is frying add a little extra fat to the frying pan – we used goose fat – and add a tablespoon of plain flour and cook for a few minutes before transferring to the slow cooker.
Add the wine, top up with water until the top of the meat is just covered and a beef stock cube.
Season with salt and pepper, and let the cooker come up to temperature. Once simmering, turn down to the low setting and leave to cook.
About half an hour or so before serving, cut the pickled walnuts into eight pieces each, and add to the stew, together with a dash of the pickling vinegar.
Finally, just before serving, check and adjust seasoning.
We gave it 8 hours, which resulted in an unctuous and rich stew that was just right for a winter weekend supper, served with a buttery mash and some quickly wilted kale.
Many thanks to Donald Russell for meat used and to Opies for the pickled walnuts.